On Tuesday, April 8th, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson led home care and hospital workers, several state representatives, health care experts, and members of the faith community in a town hall meeting to call for Medicaid expansion and a fair minimum wage in our state.
Freeman-Wilson opened the meeting in Merrillville by highlighting the Hoosiers whose lives and livelihoods hang in the balance while Republican legislators balk at making the changes that our citizens and our economy needs. Thaddeus Agee, a secretary at Northlake Methodist Hospital, shared his unique perspective on how living in the “coverage gap”—making too little money to buy subsidized insurance on exchanges, but too much to qualify for Medicaid—affects people’s lives.
“Our system puts terrible stress on sick people,” Agee said. “People have to make really tough choices: Am I sick enough to take a trip to the ER? If I wait, will this cough go away on its own, or will it just get worse and worse?”
Agee went on to explain that the coverage gap threatens not just the individuals who fall into it, but the safety-net hospitals that low-income communities rely on.
“With a lack of insurance forcing thousands of Hoosiers to use the emergency room like a primary care physician, hospitals like mine are forced to pick up massive costs that could be avoided if people had the coverage they need to address health issues before they get out of hand. This system is unsustainable, and threatens the existence of hospitals like mine,” he said.
Indiana’s unlivable minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 per hour for more than two years, adds to the financial crises facing thousands of Hoosiers who struggle to pay the bills and take care of their health at the same time. Home care worker Mary Reeves touched on the economic opportunities that Indiana gives up by letting the minimum wage stagnate at such a low rate.
“These people just want to be able to get by, to pay for school and rent and food and health care without getting their lights shut off. These are the folks who are going to put money back into our economy, and that’s what Indiana needs,” she said.
Other speakers at the event included State Representatives Shelli VanDenburgh, Linda Lawson, and Rick Niemeyer, Methodist Hospitals Vice President of Government and External Affairs Denise Dillard, and Professor T. Iverson of the Indiana University Northwest School of Social Work.
Learn more about the work our Indiana members are doing to expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage here.